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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fantomas (1913-1914)

A master criminal by the name of Fantomas (Rene Navarre) scandalizes Paris with his daring robberies. But he is also a sociopath, who would kill in cold blood anyone who got in his way. The police detective Juve (Edmund Breon) who has been duped by Fantomas on several occasions vows to capture the elusive criminal, which may prove difficult as Fantomas is a chameleon and master of disguise. This five part serial (which runs about 5 1/2 hours) directed by Louis Feuillade (LES VAMPIRES) is based on the popular series of novels by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre and has been filmed many times. Feuillade's serial is entertaining and a wonderful watch. Predominantly for its clever, if far fetched, narrative because as cinema it's pretty stilted. With a few exceptions, the camera is fairly stilted and just records the story which, fortunately, is engrossing enough to keep one glued. It would have helped a bit if the film didn't make the police so stupid at times, practically assisting Fantomas in his escapes from the clutches of the law. The version I saw had a very effective score by the Catalogue Sonimage which propels the storyline nicely. With Georges Melchior and Renee Carl. Great fun!

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